Date: 23 Dec 1960
Ronald Coomber was killed outside the Ranch House Club on Ashurst Drive, Ilford, following an argument with the owner on Friday 23 December 1960.
Four men were tried for his murder but found not guilty and acquitted on 8 March 1961. They were said to have kicked him to death outside the club.
It was said that Ronald Coomber had gone to the club late on the evening, about 11pm, after drinking throughout the day and that his party were asked to be quiet after it was said they were causing a disturbance. After they were warned to leave Ronald Coomber and his brother and some work colleagues went up to the owner and argued with him during which Ronald Coomber hit the owner. They all then left the club but on their way out they were assaulted by unknown assailants in the dark. No one saw anything and whilst the identity of the assailants was generally unknown, the four men were arrested and sent for trial, but acquitted.
The four men are referred to as:
Ronald Coomber had gone to the Ranch House Club with some friends and whilst there they were described as having been loud and troublesome and after they were asked to be quiet Ronald Coomber went up to the owner of the club with his friends and had an argument with him and hit him. Ronald Coomber and his friends then left the club followed by other members who were friends with the owner and it was said that there was then a fight during which Ronald Coomber was killed.
Ronald Coomber had been taken to hospital following the fight but was found to be dead on arrival. A doctor that had been on duty at the Casualty Department at the Kings George V Hospital in Ilford said that at about 11.55pm on 23 December 1960 that he examined the body of Ronald Coomber and found him to be dead and said that he formed the opinion that he had died within some minutes.
The doctor said that the important thing that he noticed was a large soft fresh blood clot in Ronald Coomber's throat. He said that he couldn't see where the blood had come from but concluded that the clot had asphyxiated him and said that that had been his provisional opinion as to the cause of his death.
Ronald Coomber had arrived at the hospital with another man who had also been beaten up. The doctor said that when he examined the other man he found that he had bruising and considerable swelling of both eyelids and both eyes. He also found that he had lacerations beneath both eyes which both required sutures, two sutures on the right eye and four on the left eye. He said that when he examined the man's skull he found that he had sharp incised lacerations which he thought might have been caused by a ring that his assailant might have been wearing. He noted that he took ex-rays of the man's skull to check for bone injuries but found none.
He noted that he also treated two other people, one man who refused to be treated and also Ronald Coomber's brother. The doctor noted that the man that had refused treatment had not allowed him to go near him and had used unpleasant language and had been most unhelpful and uncooperative. He added that Ronald Coomber's brother had been hysterical.
He noted that the injured man's injuries were consistent with him having been in a fight.
A chairmaker that had lived in Chicksand House, Chicksand Street in Stepney, said that he had gone to the Ranch House Club in Barkingside on the evening of 23 December 1960 with a party of six, three men and three women, including himself. He said that they got there at about 10pm and were sat by a tree, with the three women sitting with their backs to it and the three men facing the tree.
He said that at about 11pm there was a scuffle behind them but said that he didn't take much notice. He said that the noise was like pushing about and that he looked round and then just carried on. He said that he didn't hear many voices and later added that a band had been playing at the time.
He said that a few minutes later there was another scuffle at the snack bar but said that he didn't really take any notice and that he next saw a group of people going out of the door, noting that thre were seven or eight people in the group. He noted that he didn't see where any of the group had come from before he saw them walking and said that when they got to the door that they all went straight out and that he didn't see any of them come in again.
He said that he didn't see the faces of any of the men as they all had their backs to him but did notice that one of them was about 5ft 10in tall, which was all he could describe, noting that he appeared bigger than the others, which was why he noticed.
He said that after they went out he heard nothing more and that the first he knew of any trouble was when the police came.
He noted that there were quite a few people in the club at the time, about seventy-five, adding that there were people coming and going, entering and leaving the club but that by the time the police arrived there would have only been about forty people there.
He said that he stayed at the club until 6.10am on the Saturday morning.
A company director of a motor car company that lived in Whalebone Lane North, Chadwell Heath, said that he was a member of the Ranch House Club and used to go there fairly often. He said that he went there on the evening of 23 December 1960 with a nephew and a woman, arriving about 9.40pm. He said that they sat alongside the bar, on the right going in, right next to the band facing into the room.
He said that he then saw the proprietor rubbing his eye, saying that he was wiping it and that his hair was ruffled and that there had been a bit of a scuffle, noting that he was almost certain that the cabaret had been on at the time and that there had been a man there singing at the front of the stage where the dance band had been. He noted that the lights in the club were slightly dimmed at the time and that there was a spot light directed to where the man was singing.
He said that the scuffle was at the far end of the bar near to where the proprietor was but that he could not see anything of it. He said that after a time he saw a crowd of people go out, stating that he thought that there were about fifteen or twenty people in the crowd and that they were all crowded together. He said that the secretary had been at the door at the time just standing there which he normally did as a rule.
He noted that he did see two of the men that were tried for the murder of Ronald Coomber, the Fruiterer and the Second Fruiterer who he said he had seen earlier in the evening to his left. He said that he wasn't sure where they were sitting but thought that it was near the door where there had been a gathering of people, men and women, but noted that he didn't know who they were.
He said that after the crowd left the club that he didn't see the Fruiterer or the Second Fruiterer again. He noted that the Second Fruiterer was a club member and that he had known both the Fruiterer and the Second Fruiterer for years and had seen them at the club on numerous occasions and had never seen them in any trouble before and described their behaviour in the club as excellent, adding that that was what he would have expected from a member.
He noted that he had not been to the club since the murder owing to him not being very well but said that he had seen the proprietor and noted that when he did he had an injury to his eye, adding that he thought that it was an injury that would only have been caused by considerable force.
He said that normally the front of the club was illuminated by flood lights but that he didn't believe that they had been operating in the front of the club on that night, adding that there was little or no help from the regular street lighting.
He further added that he recalled seeing the Lampshade Salesman at the club on the night of the murder between 10.30pm and 11pm, but could not recall whether he had been in the group that he had seen leave.
He said that he had left the club around midnight and was not at the club when the police arrived.
He said that he thought that there had been between seventy-five and one hundred people in the club when the incident happened, noting that it was an unusual thing to happen at the club and that after the disturbance the number of people in the club dwindled down.
A woman that had been part of the party of six who lived in College Buildings, Wentworth said that she and her husband were both members of the Ranch House Club. She said that they were at the club on the night of 23 December 1960 along with the chairmaker and that they were sat on the seat that went round the tree and that she had her back to it.
She said that sometime during the evening, around 10.30pm or earlier, that she noticed a group of about five people that were talking loudly. She said that they seemed different from the usual type of people who were usually there and that they seemed to be talking about the other people in the club rather than keeping to themselves. She said that she didn't hear them swear, but said that they were talking and then laughing but said that she didn't hear anything that they said, noting that it was their tone that she noticed more than anything else.
She said that they were to her left and were the next lot of people nearest to her although she said that there might have been a table between them but that there were no people.
She said that she didn't exactly seem them get up but said that the next thing that she saw was them trooping towards the corner where the proprietor was at the corner of the bar by the statue of an Indian.
She said that she had been watching the cabaret at the time but that she then heard people shouting, or rather the sound of a scuffle and looked up and saw the proprietor reel back towards the bar with his hand to his eye as though someone had hit him and that then some more people that had been sitting near the door went to where the disturbance was happening. She said that the men from the door seemed to talk to the first group and that they all then turned and went towards the door. She noted that they were not pushing or anything, adding that the second group behind the first were just ushering them out, but not pushing them or anything. She said that about nine or ten people left the club and supposed that it was possible that others had joined in, but not as far as she saw.
She said that it was possible that two of the men in the group had not been wearing ties, noting that their clothing was not of the type that she would expect in the club, adding that they looked a bit untidy.
She said that they had been talking about people in the club and laughing but didn't think that they had been looking for trouble, just talking and laughing, noting that she couldn't hear what they said. She said that they appeared to have been drinking but were not drunk.
She said that she didn't see the proprietor being struck but said that when she saw him reel back that it was obvious that he had been struck by one of the six men.
She said that she saw them go past her but said that as far as she knew that they just went out of the door as there was nowhere else that they could have gone. She said that the second group had consisted of about three or four men and that before they had gone across to the bar that they had been sitting towards the door. She noted that there was a bit of a raised platform towards the corner.
She said that at the time the cabaret had been on and that the light was on the cabaret and that outside the circle of light it was darker but that she had seen the men when they had gone into the circle of light.
She said that she noticed that the Salesman was one of the second group that had gone out, saying that she recognised him as she saw him later when he came back and also because he had been sitting in a chair next to them for a short time.
She said that she couldn't remember the faces of the others but said that two were tall and one was stocky. She added that she thought that there might have been other tall ones beside the Salesman but that she could not be sure, noting that they had just passed her in a group.
She said that she didn't know how long it was when she saw the Salesman come back into the club but noted that the cabaret had stopped playing but the police had not arrived, but thought that it wasn't very long. She said that when he came back that he didn't seem to go back to his place and sit down but instead seemed to walk up to somebody at the end of the bar and talk and seemed to just wander about.
The woman said that after she saw the Salesman come back into the club that he was dressed and didn't look like he had been in a fight and that she didn't notice anything abnormal about him and hat he was not at all untidy and pulled around with his shirt of buttons off or anything and was breathing normally. She said that his hair was not as tidy as it was when she saw him in court and that as far as she could tell he had had no marks on his face or blood on him. She sad that he looked quite normal but noted that she didn't know what normal for him was.
She added that she also definitely remembered another man coming back, saying that he walked to the other end of the club and then walked out and said that at the time she recognised him as one of the group of three or four that she had seen but that she did not recognise him at the time of the trial as being present in the courtroom. She added that she had not known any of the four men on trial as members of the club.
She added that she was at the club when the police arrived and made two statements to them and that she later left the club at 6.30am. She noted that by the time the police arrived that there were a lot less people in the club. She noted that all the people that had been at the club when the police arrived were detained, but could not say how many people there were.
Ronald Coomber had gone to the Ranch House Club with five other people, including his brother. Their group consisted of:
The four various sheet metal workers had all worked for Ronald Coomber's brother.
The sheet metal erector who lived in Northcote House, Lansbury Estate, Poplar said that he worked for Ronald Coomber's brother.
He said that they got to the Ranch House Club at about 11pm or just after. He said that he knew the owner of the Ranch House having seen him on several occasions adding that there was another man that he knew there by sight but said that he didn't know his name who helped to run the club who he called the under-manager.
He said that he was sitting at the table when Ronald Coomber's brother got up to see the owner about a complaint but that he was still sitting at the table when the argument was going on and that shortly after Ronald Coomber's brother turned to them and signalled them to go. He said that he then got up from the table and went to where the argument was going on by the main bar and then started walking towards the door. He said that when he got to the door that he turned round and saw that they were still there by the bar at which point the duct work erector was standing beside him.
He said that as he and the duct work erector stood by the door his other four friends were standing by the bar arguing. He said that as he was by the door that he looked back but could not remember whether the lights were on, noting that the cabaret had started and that there was a chap singing. He said that he could still see across to the bar where his friends were arguing but didn't see anything happen to the owner and that after a short time he went back to the bar and saw that the owner had a handkerchief by his eye which when he took away he saw was bleeding.
He said that he then went back to the bar but didn't take any notice of who else was there at the time but they didn't come back with him and so he went back to the door and that when he got back to the door the second time that he turned and looked back towards te door again and that when he looked back towards the bar he saw that his party was moving towards the door. He said that he wasn't taking any notice and that as soon as he saw that they were leaving that he went out with the duct work erector, noting that he didn't know which one went first and that he walked out towards the street.
He said that the way was down some steps and into the drive and out into the street which was the left hand side as he came out. He said that he walked right out into the street and turned right and never heard anything and that he then turned round to see if the others were coming out of the club and that he then saw what he said he would describe at the time as a scuffle, but noted that he would not call it that at the trial, stating that at the time he didn't know what it was actually and called it a scuffle because he didn't know what else it was, adding that it was very dark there.
He said that it just seemed to be as though there was another argument going on outside and that that was what he thought it was and that he had no idea how many people there were, just that it seemed like a small collection of men and that he could not distinguish whether any of his party were in the collection.
However, he noted that he could see the under-manager at the door when it was happening, noting that he was at the door of the Ranch House itself, just inside the door and not taking part in the scuffle. He said that he then called out to the under-manager and then walked into Horns Road to see if there were any police there in case anything did happen and there were any further arguments.
The sheet metal erector said that when he left the club with the duct work erector that he didn't notice which way the duct work erector went, stating that he just wanted to get away from the club and went straight into the street, noting that he was in a hurry to get away because he was not one for arguments.
He said that his party had come in a car that had been put at the side of the Ranch House itself, but said that he didn’t go straight for the car when he came out and could not explain why he didn't go straight for the car and instead went down the main road to find a policeman.
He said that after he went into Horn Road that he went straight back and saw the second sheet metal erector and Ronald Coomber's brother outside the Ranch House in the street itself up against the wall, noting that the second sheet metal erector was cut about the face and eyes. He said that he spoke to them and that the next thing that he saw was the car coming out into Horns Road but at that stage could not see who was driving and that they all then got in it in the main road, noting that he saw the duct work erector, the sheet metal worker and Ronald Coomber inside.
He said that as he was coming out of the club that he noticed a table by the door and that as he turned to the table he noticed a young lady sitting on the chair their to the right of the door. He added that he was not taking any notice as to who was anywhere and so didn't know if anyone else was sitting there at that moment or if there was anyone else sitting with her.
He said that there was some bad language used in the club on the night and that that was what the complaint was about, noting that if there had been swearing then the complaint would have been justified but added that he didn't hear any swearing, not even between members of his own party. He said that up to the argument at the bar that he would say that his party behaved themselves in the club.
He added that he had been anxious to leave the club because he was not used to going out and finding himself in trouble and that he was not actually leaving his friends behind although he said that it was partly right to say that he left four of his party in the club. He added that when he had left the Ranch House that the argument had finished or had appeared to have finished and that he walked away from the car and had not expected any trouble from the friends he had left behind. He noted that he had gone to find a policeman and did not know the district well and did not know the Barkingside Police Station. He added that he also didn't know where any telephone was and could not ask anyone as there was no one there, but accepted that he could have asked at the club to use the telephone but said that he didn't anticipate trouble when he left the club which was why he went for the police, adding that he had gone to look for a policeman in case there was any trouble.
He said that he only saw one man at the door when he looked, the under-manager, but had no idea what he saw and could not say whether the scuffle had been over or not when he had seen him at the door.
He said that he didn't see Ronald Coomber attacked.
He said that after he got back from Horns Road that he only saw the Second Sheet Metal Erector and Ronald Coomber's brother and said that it looked like everyone else had disappeared. He said that the second sheet metal erector and Ronald Coomber's brother then walked along Ashurst Drive to the end and turned right and crossed the main road, Horns Road and got into the car there.
The second sheet metal erector who lived in Valetta Grove, Plaistow and who worked for Ronald Coomber's brother said that before they went to the club that they had been drinking and reached the Ranch House Club at about 11.30pm, noting that it was dark outside the club when they arrived. He said that there was a sort of argument between Ronald Coomber and the owner but that he didn't know what it was about and that the next thing he knew was that the owner was staggering back.
The sheet metal erector said that after seeing what happened he apologised to everybody who was there and then walked out on his own. He said that he didn't know where the rest of his party were and that when he got to the car park entrance he was attacked, but said that he could not say who attacked him as it was too dark. However, he said that he thought that it was more than one person because he got knocked about. He said that the first blow he got was at the entrance to the car park to the back side of his head and that he then received blows to his face and that he just went down and covered up. He said that he got two cuts, one under each eye which he supposed he got from the bashing but said he could not say what he was bashed with.
He noted that at that stage he could not see the rest of his party.
He went on to say that when he had apologised in the club he meant that he apologised to the owner and the under-owner as well as a third man and said that he knew none of them by name but knew one of them by sight, referring to the Second Fruiterer who he described as the big man that had come over to the corner to ask what the trouble was.
He noted that he didn't see any of the other men that were tried for the murder in the club that night.
He said that after he was attacked he got up and that Ronald Coomber's brother came over to him and that he went towards the car, noting that he didn't see anybody else at that stage. He said that he had left the car in the car park earlier but that he did not find it there and that it was in the road and that he saw one of his friends there who told him something and that he then saw Ronald Coomber in the car and that they all then got in and drove off to the hospital where he had stitches put in the cuts to his eyes.
When he was cross-examined at the trial he said that he didn't hear bad language in the club and had not known it was disgusting until the manager had come up to them. However, he said that he had heard some swearing but had not been interested enough to hear what was said.
He added that he saw the owner's eye, noting that he only had a quick glance at it, but had seen the swelling rising.
He added that it had been Ronald Coomber that had attacked the owner. He said that he could not see any justification for that and had not been there when Ronald Coomber's brother had demanded five pounds, noting that he never heard any mention of five pounds.
He noted that all six of them had been drinking pretty heavily that day.
He said that he thought that it had been the Second Fruiterer that had spoken to him, saying that he did so in a quiet and proper manner, noting that he didn't ask him to leave the club but that he left him and walked out and was the third person through the door with two of his friends going before him.
He said that it was within a few seconds that he was attacked and said that it was obvious that the men that attacked him were already outside the club waiting for him, adding that it would not have been the Second Fruiterer as he had left him in the club and that at no time did he see him outside.
He added that he never saw any of the other men being attacked at the time and never heard any scuffle. He said that the attack lasted a matter of seconds and that it was then all over and that when he looked up after the attack all the men had gone and that he didn't know where they went.
He said that he had received a lot of blows at the same time and could not say how many were there, noting that he just shut his eyes and copped it. He said that he was attacked before he went down and that he was still standing when he covered up and that all the blows on him were struck before he fell and that after he fell he received no more blows. However, he said that after he fell he had anticipated more blows which was why he kept covered up on the ground.
He said that as he had been on the ground no car passed him and that he could not say whether the car that he had arrived in and which was out on the road had been driven out very quickly. He said that when he got to it the engine was not on and that only two of his friends were stood by it with Ronald Coomber. He said that Ronald Coomber's brother arrived at the car at about the same time that he did and that another man arrived soon after which he said he thought was about it.
He said that Ronald Coomber had been in the back seat but said that he never looked at him as he was in a bad way himself and said that one of his friends said, 'We had better go to the hospital because Ronnie is in a bad way'.
He noted that the car was a Wolsely 99 and that he had been in the back with another man who was between him and Ronald Coomber.
A duct work erector that also worked for Ronald Coomber's brother who lived in Shillingford House, Devons Road, said that he had spent the evening of 23 December 1960 with Ronald Coomber and others. He said that they had fetched him from his home at about 8pm and that they eventually went to the Ranch House.
He said that when they arrived at the Ranch House that they sat down at a table there and that the manager came up to them and accused them of something. He said that he didn't know the name of the manager.
He said that they sat there until Ronald Coomber's brother came back from the phone and that on his return one of them said something to him and that Ronald Coomber's brother then said, 'In that case we better go' and that he then got up and went to the cloakroom to get his mack. He said that after he got his mack that he waited by the door at the entrance with the sheet metal erector and that he watched the man singing at the mike.
He said that the rest of his party were right over at the end of the other bar which was generally referred to as the snack bar. He said that he could not tell what the other members of his party were doing whilst he was standing by the door but noted that the sheet metal erector then went over to get them and then came back and said something to him at that he then walked halfway over and said something to the crowd, noting that there were about eighteen people in the crowd but that he was unsure how many were men or women, noting that that included the four members of his party, Ronald Coomber and his brother and two others.
He said that he then turned to walk out through the door with the sheet metal erector noting that there was nobody else immediately with him and thought that as he went out that the rest of his party was following out, but could not say how many.
He said that when he got out of the door he walked round to the car park where their car was and then heard a scuffle behind him and said that when he turned round a chap punched him on the chin. He said that he had one blow on the chin but that there were two chaps but didn't see who it was as it happened so quickly.
He said that he had a lump come up on his chin.
He said that he then staggered back and said something like, 'What's all this about?', but noted that he was not exactly sure what he did say and that he then ran off to the end of the car park. He said that he looked over his shoulder and noticed that nobody was following him and that he stayed at the end of the car park for a couple of minutes and that he then made his way back to the car.
He said that the sheet metal worker that had been in his party then came over to the car and that he said something to him and he looked at his face and saw what looked like bruises on his face.
He said that they then both got into the car and he drove it out of the car park.
He said that the sheet metal worker then said something to him and that he replied, 'Wait there' and that he then saw something on the ground and found that it was a body and that when he turned the body over he recognised by the suit that it was Ronald Coomber. He said that they then put Ronald Coomber int the car and drove it round to the main road where all the lights were and waited for the rest of his party.
He said that he wanted to get out on to the main road because he did not want to hang about and didn't know where the rest of his party were.
He said that when they arrived that they drove to the hospital.
At the trial he noted that he could see no one in the court that he recognised as having been in the crowd of twelve at the club and nor did he see anybody there that had been outside the club.
He said that when he had got out of the club that he had turned left out of the door and that it was when he had got round the corner that he had heard the scuffle, saying that it as about halfway between the corner and where the car was parked. He said that he didn't know what the scuffle was and that he had just turned round and a man had punched him on the chin. He added that he didn't see the scuffle, and only heard it.
He said that he found the body that was Ronald Coomber on the corner of the Ranch House and that when he got him into the car that there was blood in his mouth and he looked in a bad way and that he didn't make any movement of his own or any sound. He added that he didn't think that Ronald Coomber had been breathing but noted that he didn't know as he just put him in the back of the car and didn't spend much time. He noted that when the car door opened that a light came on but that when they were in the car he had the door shut and reiterated that when they were in the car that he didn't know whether Ronald Coomber was dead or not. However, he noted that if he was dead that he supposed that he would not have thought of taking him to the hospital. He said that before they left that he remained in the car for a couple of minutes whilst he waited for his other friends to come to the car.
He noted that he never saw anything that happened to Ronald Coomber.
He noted that before he had gone to the Ranch Club that he had been to the Moulders Arms near where he lived after which he went to a pub that relations of the second sheet metal erector used and that he was there until closing time, noting that his colleagues had been drinking quite heavily.
He added that when they got to the Ranch Club that there was not a lot of abusive language between his party although he might have heard one or two words but said that it was his opinion that they were behaving themselves properly in the club. He added that he didn't see any assault in which someone was struck in the eye and that he didn't know that there was any trouble in the club at all.
He said that he had been standing at the door for three or four minutes, although it might have been a little bit longer, waiting for his friends. He said that it was not a fact that he had gone back to the bar because he had got fed up with waiting but that it was because of something that the sheet metal erector had said. He said that there was no question of an assault. He added that it was right that he then turned round and walked out of the club and that whilst he was in the club that he had not seen anybody coming in and out of the club, noting that he had not been looking and couldn't remember.
He said that when he left the club that he thought that the sheet metal erector was with him but could not remember how far away he was. He added that when he was attacked in the car park that he could not tell how many paces he had taken but noted that he had not reached his car and that he had not travelled very far, only a matter of a few yards, but did not know how far it was from the entrance. He added that it happened within a few seconds of him leaving the club.
He said that when he was attacked that he didn't see anyone else outside the club and didn't know where the two men that attacked him went to, noting that it had been one of the two men that had attacked him. He said that he thought that they were facing him when he saw them.
He said that when he found Ronald Coomber's body it was on its left side with his arms about his head but that he couldn't remember the position of the rest of his body. He said that he then turned Ronald Coomber over onto his back and that he then got him by his arms whilst the sheet metal worker took hold of his legs and that they then manoeuvred him with some difficulty to the car. He said that he thought that they both got his side and got half of him on the seat and that the sheet metal worker then went round to the other door and helped him in that way.
He said that after they got the car out onto the main road that two other people then got into the back seat with Ronald Coomber. He said that when all six of them had got into the car that they then drove off to the hospital with him driving, three in the back and two others in the front, the sheet metal erector being beside him.
He said that he later attended three identity parades but had been unable to identify anyone that had been inside or outside the club at any of them.
The sheet metal worker, who lived in Ohio Road, Plaistow, said that he had been employed by Ronald Coomber's brother and that he had gone with the party of six to the Ranch House Club on the night of 23 December 1960 and that whilst he was there he saw Ronald Coomber (Ronnie Coomber) hit somebody. He said that he hit him once and that he and the second sheet metal erector then got hold of him and said, 'We'll go'. He said that as they were heading for the door that the same man that Ronald Coomber had hit in the first place said something and that Ronald Coomber went back and hit him again and so he and the second sheet metal erector got hold of him again.
He said that they all started going out then and that he was walking out the last of all with Ronald Coomber in front of him.
He said that as he got outside the door and as soon as the door closed, that he saw some blokes setting about someone, noting that he didn't know who they were setting about but that he knew that it was one of his blokes. He noted that he didn't see which one it was but that he just had a feeling, but added that it was where Ronald Coomber had been and so he assumed that it had been Ronald Coomber.
He said that he then jumped in and took a little bit of a beating, noting that he had jumped in to help his mate, hollering out, 'Let him alone, you bastards'. He said that he took a little bit of a punching round his face and went down and that he had had no time to hit back at all and that the whole lot was over in seconds.
He said that when he saw them set about Ronald Coomber that he had only just come out of the door and that there had been about three or four people setting about him.
He said that the only person that he remembered coming out of the club was Ronald Coomber, noting that he could not remember where the others were.
He said that when the argument was going on inside the club, when Ronald Coomber hit the man the second time, that they had been walking out and that the other fellows had been walking out with them, sort of all mixed in with them, noting that there had been about seven or eight of them mixed in with his party.
He added that he had not seen the three or four men that had set on Ronald Coomber and could not recognise anyone and noted that he never picked anyone out on the identification parade and did not recognise anyone in court at the trial as having been outside the club when Ronald Coomber was attacked.
He said that he had a couple of bumps and bruises from the night but no cuts, noting that he supposed he got some when he was standing up and others when he was lying down.
He recalled however that he heard someone say something, stating that he heard one of the attackers say, 'Let him alone, he has had enough'.
He said that after the attack they left and he got up and went back to the car which was at the time in the car park with the duct work erector in it sitting in the driver’s seat.
He said that as they pulled away that he saw Ronald Coomber lying crumpled up in the dirt by the end of the wooden walk-way and to the right of the right-hand lamp standard and that they then stopped the car about there and picked him up. He noted that Ronald Coomber had definitely been by the wooden walk-way and that he and the duct work erector picked him up and that Ronald Coomber didn't move of his own accord when they picked him up or say anything. He added that Ronald Coomber didn't make any move at all, noting that he knew that because he had been in the back seat with him and that he had been trying to bring him round as he took him to the hospital.
He said that after they picked Ronald Coomber up that they drove up to the main road and then stopped there until the rest of his party came up about a minute later and that they then drove off.
At the trial he noted that he didn't recognise anyone that was in the court as having hit Ronald Coomber and that he didn't recognise anyone. He added that he had attended three identification parades and not identified anyone in them.
He added that before Ronald Coomber struck the owner of the club that there had been some talking but no shouting. However, he accepted that there had been swearing at their table but noted that it was not at people but between themselves.
He said that the assault of the owner took place about five or six minutes later.
He said that whatever the owner had said to Ronald Coomber that it could not have been all that good otherwise Ronald Coomber would not have gone back and hit him. He added that he thought that the assault was justified, stating that if anybody insults you that you don't just stand there and take it. However, he noted that he didn’t know anything about Ronald Coomber trying to assault the owner the second time as he didn't see anything about that. He added under cross-examination at the trial that if anyone insults you, you hit them. However, he added that he would not have done it himself, saying that it was the wrong place to do it, but said that he would do it anywhere else in normal conditions, but not in the club.
He said that he had been in a couple of fights himself before.
He added that when he had left the club that the only person that he saw directly in front of him was Ronald Coomber and that he was the last of their blokes out but that there was a crowd of blokes sot of intermingled with them.
He said that he was not right next to Ronald Coomber when he was attacked but was about three or four yards behind him. He said, 'As soon as I got out of the club the door shut, there was plenty of people outside the club, giving Ronnie a good hiding. Those people could have walked out with us and stood by the door. If they were out just before him, they only had a couple of seconds before him, as he walked out of the door, they have got him. There was nobody between me and Ronnie. As the door shut, so they jumped on him. I just saw four blokes jump on him. These four blokes were already outside. The crowd of them walked out when we walked out. There was nobody between me and Ronnie, so they must have walked out before Ronnie. I got mixed up on this fight, and I went to the assistance of my friend, which is how I got involved. I got some blows. I was hit in the face, I went down and I got a few more blows to the face, with the fist. I saw a boot coming at me, and I rolled out of the way of it. I suppose Ronnie was still lying where he stopped. They grabbed hold of me and pulled me out of the way towards the road. This was from the pavement to the road. I was dragged into the road over the pavement and the fight continued in the road'.
He said that whilst he was in the car he was trying to bring Ronald Coomber round, saying to him, 'Come on, Ron' and trying to bring him round and slapping his face, saying that he didn't know that he was dead, but added at the trial that when he then thought about it his mouth had been full of blood and so he couldn't have been alive. He noted that Ronald Coomber had been lying across him with his head on its side and that he didn't get a great deal of blood on his clothing. He added that he didn't look to see if there was blood in the car and had not seen any because he didn't look.
He later said that the people that had come out of the club with them had come over to them in the bar while the trouble was going on inside and that there were between seven and eight of them and that it appeared that the people that had gone out with them had turned on them, adding that the whole lot was over within half-a-minute from what he could remember.
Ronald Coomber's brother was a heating and ventilation erector and had lived in Wellfield Avenue, Muswell Hill. He said that on 23 December 1960 that he went to the Ranch House Club where he was a member with Ronald Coomber and four other men who he described as all being his employees, stating that he had been with them from the time they had knocked off at 2pm drinking up until they went to the Ranch House Club. He said that they went there by car with the duct work erector driving and got there at approximately 10.45pm.
He said that they had gone to the Ranch House Club that night to see about a couple of musical lighters that he wanted to sell and also for a drink and that when they got there they went into the club and sat at the far end by the statue of the Indian. He said that shortly after he left his party for a short time to use the telephone, noting that he was away for about five or six minutes and that when he came back that he was told by one of his party of something that had happened in his absence and that after that he went to speak to the owner. He said that after he spoke to the owner that Ronald Coomber struck the owner in the eye and that he then restrained Ronald Coomber.
He said that he thought that they were all standing around at that point, noting that it was all a bit hazy, but he thought that the sheet metal erector and the duct work erector had already gone, leaving four of them there and that they then left, walking through the front door which they had come in through.
He said that as they were walking away from the Ranch House and got half-way across the drive he heard a scuffle which appeared to come midway from where he was and the Ranch House on the gravel. He said that he saw figures, noting that it was hard to say but that he thought there were about five but that as he went back they all broke up and went, noting that he didn't know what way they went.
He said that when he went back he saw the second sheet metal erector standing there with his face cut and bleeding from both eyes.
He said that he saw two figures outside the Ranch House and that he went within twenty yards of them, leaving the second sheet metal erector, stating that he didn't know who the two men were as well as saying that he was not sure of anything that night. He said that he was not sure if he could see them two men at the trail but said that he spoke to them and then immediately left them to go back to the second sheet metal erector who seemed to be in a state.
He said that they did nothing and that what happened to Ronald Coomber that night was a mystery.
He noted that he had got some money from the owner in the club, saying that he got five pounds as he had previously changed a holiday scheme card for one of the waiters.
He said that apart from the owner he could not remember anybody else speaking to him in the club.
He said that after he restrained Ronald Coomber that he said something like, 'Come on let's go' and that the owner said something like 'Go' and that he said 'Alright give me my fiver and we'll go'. He added that it was all a blur.
He said that Ronald Coomber had been behind him and that when they had got to the door that they had gone left and got half-way down the drive, about twenty-five to thirty feet and that he had then heard the scuffle and that when he had looked round said that it seemed to have come from where the gravel part reached the street.
He said that he then walked back to where the scuffle was and saw the second sheet metal erector, noting that there was enough light to see his face and that he spoke to him.
He said that he could not describe the two men that he had seen, but said that one was smaller than the other and that he went up and spoke to them before going back to where the second sheet metal erector was, noting that he had no idea where the other members of his party were, noting that he next saw them when he got back to the second sheet metal erector where he saw the duct work erector who told him something and that when he went to the car he saw Ronald Coomber.
He said that the car was dark but that he could see that he was bleeding badly.
He said that they were all in the car and that they then went to the hospital with the duct work erector driving.
He said that Ronald Coomber didn't show any signs of life in the car and that the next day he identified his body at Ilford Mortuary.
Ronald Coomber's brother said that on Christmas Day he attended an identification parade at Barking Police Station and pointed to one man, the Second Fruiterer, but said that he was not sure where he saw him at the Ranch House, saying that he thought it was outside but that he could not say for sure as he was in such a state that he just didn't remember. He added that he could not say whether he was one of the two men that he saw outside the Ranch house. He added that he attended three identification parades and that on two of them all the men were strangers to him and that when he had picked out the Second Fruiterer that he had done so with great hesitancy, noting that it was all a blur and that the police had only asked him to pick out anyone that he saw inside or outside the club.
He noted that only the police had been to see him about the case adding that the Second Fruiterer's solicitors had not been to see him about it.
He added that he had been drinking fairly heavily with his party during the day which was because of the commencement of the Christmas holiday and that he could not remember clearly what had happened outside on the night.
He said that he did not use abusive language in the club that night but did not know whether Ronald Coomber did and could not say whether Ronald Coomber had threatened to do harm to the club owner adding that he didn't make any threats to the owner.
He added that he did not recall Ronald Coomber getting up and speaking to a lady in the club that night or see him put his hands on the neck of a member.
He said that his party was there to have a drink.
He added that he didn’t remember the owner terminating his membership that night.
He said that the last he saw of Ronald Coomber was when he was in the club and that he next saw him in the car and only saw where there were men fighting and didn't see Ronald Coomber outside the club. He added that there had been quite a lot of people outside the club apart from his six, saying that his impression was that there were about five or six.
He said that the whole thing took thirty seconds and that from leaving the club to getting into the car took about a minute or just over.
He added that when he saw the two men they were on the veranda of the Ranch House but that as far as he could see they were not involved in the fight at all. He added that the two men could have been in addition to the two men that he spoke of.
The owner of the Ranch House Club had lived at 156 Ashurst Drive and said that he had arrived at the club shortly after 11pm on 23 December 1960. He said that the light over the entrance to the club and the flood lights had been out of action that night, noting that they had sixty watt bulbs in them.
He said that he knew Ronald Coomber's brother as a member of his club and that he saw him there that evening. He said that the club secretary first drew his attention to the party and that when he first looked Ronald Coomber's brother was not with the party but that he joined them shortly afterwards. He said that after Ronald Coomber's brother re-joined the group that the behaviour of his party was rather disorderly and said that he spoke to Ronald Coomber's brother about it but said that Ronald Coomber's brother took exception to him speaking to him.
He said that Ronald Coomber's brother then mentioned that he owed him five pounds and that he told him that he had no knowledge of that debt but gave him the five pounds to keep the peace. However, he said that whilst he was doing that that Ronald Coomber hit him causing his right eye to bleed. He noted that there were two other blows from Ronald Coomber aimed at him but that they didn't connect. He said that he was then further threatened by Ronald Coomber and his brother and added that it appeared that they were just determined to have a fight.
He said that with discretion being the better part of valour he retreated behind the bar. He noted that his eye was very painful and bleeding and that he thought it better to retire to prevent further conflict.
He said that the last that he saw of Ronald Coomber's party was a general upheaval between the bar and the members part of the club, noting that in the upheaval were Ronald Coomber's group, which included visitors to the club along with three or four or more people that had rallied round the scene. He added that he could not exactly say the names of the three or four people that had rallied round the scene but gave the name of one man that he thought was in the group, not one of the accused, but that he could not identify any more.
He said that after that that he retired through his kitchen to a bathroom to attend to his eye where shortly after two people came in to see him and then sometime later the Second Fruiterer, stating that the Second Fruiterer came in through the back door, that being the kitchen door. He said that the Second Fruiterer then said to him, 'There is a hell of a commotion going on outside. They're fighting amongst themselves'. He said that the Second Fruiterer then told him that he wanted to make reservations over the holidays but that he would see him the following day about it. He said that the Second Fruiterer then asked him if he could get word to the two young ladies as he wished them to leave due to the general upset and the owner said that he passed that message on to the waiter.
The owner said that when the Second Fruiterer came in through the back door that there was nothing different about his appearance from how he normally was and noted that he had come through the back door on other occasions but noted that it was certainly not the normal procedure.
He noted that when the Second Fruiterer told him that there was a commotion going on outside that he did nothing further.
At the trial the owner said that he knew all of the defendants, noting that three of them were members of his club, the Fruiterer, the Second Fruiterer and the Salesman, adding that he knew the Smithfield Market Foreman because he had been in the club on a few occasions, usually with the Second Fruiterer. However, he added that he didn't see any of them in the members part of the club that evening.
He noted that the car park took up three sides of the building and that the kitchen door led directly in to it.
The owner described each of the defendants:
At the trial he noted that the there had been a large stone that was used to keep the front door of the club open and that there were other large stones in the forecourt and around the side of the club premises.
He added that Ronald Coomber's party had been very much under the influence of drink and that their language was rather unbearable and very persistent and was even increased when they were cautioned by himself.
When he was crossed-examined at the trial he said that he gave Ronald Coomber's brother five pounds, but didn't consider that he owed him five pounds but said that the common sense aspect was that they were determined to cause trouble and that it was worth five pounds to keep the peace.
He added that it was not the sort of thing that happened in his club and that he would not tolerate it and said that he told Ronald Coomber's brother that if they didn't leave the club immediately that he would cease to be a member. He said that they didn't leave and that Ronald Coomber's brother told him what he could do with his membership and used language that he would not like to repeat in the court and that he was further threatened by Ronald Coomber.
He said that Ronald Coomber said to him, 'I will get you if it is the last thing I do' and added that Ronald Coomber's brother said, 'That goes for me too'.
The owner said that he had also heard a statement from a woman that had been there who said that she heard one of them say, 'Thank you for spoiling our evening. We will wait outside for you and chivvy you', or something like that and then 'if we have to wait all night'.
The owner said that if the front door had been locked after the Second Fruiterer had gone out that he would have had no other way to get in other than through the kitchen. When he was cross-examined he said that when the Second Fruiterer came in that he appeared quite normal and not perturbed about anything and didn't give any appearance at all by his demeanour or dress that he had been involved in a fight.
He added that a disturbance of that kind was most undesirable in his class of club, noting with that sort of thing happening as it did on the night that he would not be surprised if members left, which he noted would also apply to member's visitors.
He said that when the Second Fruiterer told him that they were fighting amongst themselves that he didn't personally hear anything and that when he was told that he didn't do anything because he had his own personal troubles and a very painful eye. He said that the blow that had struck him was rather vicious and that he was definitely in pain and had been at the time bathing it in the bathroom.
He said that he stayed at the club for another fifteen minutes but as he lived in close proximity he decided to go home, noting that that was due to the extent of his injury.
He said that he had been at home for approximately ten minutes when he received a phone call and as a result returned to the club and found that the police had arrived.
He noted that he still had a very bad swelling and discolouration of his eye and that the bleeding didn't stop for another four or five hours and that he was dazed for about two hours.
He said that he later saw the Lampshade Salesman at 1am on 24 December 1960 when he came in with some lamp-shades, noting that he was not expecting him but said that he had previously made a request for him to bring some lamp-shades to replace about two or three days earlier, noting that he had to replace some that had been destroyed by a dog.
He said that when the Lampshade Salesman arrived that he had had a few drinks and was under the influence and fairly talkative, noting that that was not his normal condition.
He said that the Lampshade Salesman then replaced the lampshades for him.
He later noted that when the trouble over the money that he didn't owe arose that he didn't telephone for the police because it was impossible as he was surrounded by a number of people. He added that only one statement was made about the money but that Ronald Coomber's brother, when cautioned by him had made other statements that were ridiculous apart from the five pounds as he was very much in drink and said that his first thoughts were for the club and the members and so he handed him the five pounds, adding, 'Just as easy as that'.
He said that when he had first come into the club and gone to the bar that the secretary had said something to him and that he didn't go any further than the table adjacent to Ronald Coomber's group, saying that it was the obvious place to sit, it being as near to the disturbance s possible. He added that that was the first time that he had been threatened and that he had not given money to other people under similar circumstances.
The secretary of the Ranch House Club, who lived in Lynn Road, Ilford, said that during the evening of 23 December 1960 that he was at the club and saw Ronald Coomber's brother there, noting that he was a member of the club. He said that he was with some other men but that he only knew the other men through other visits to the club. He said that he didn't see them come in but saw them seated, stating that they were seated at a long table about three-quarters of the way into the club. He said that he first went up to their party in the first instance because one or more of their party was not wearing a tie. He noted that he offered to lend a man one but could not find one. He said that his attention was next drawn to the party by a woman and he went up to the group at which time Ronald Coomber's brother was not there. He said that by that time that the group were reasonably quiet and he reprimanded them about their bad language. He noted that as he moved away from the bar he heard them muttering but could not hear what they were saying.
He said that Ronald Coomber's brother then returned and that the group then began to argue with the party that had complained about their language.
He said that the owner then spoke to them about their language and that as a result the group got up in a threatening manner and moved to the bar, noting that at least one of the party hung back and started on another member who was sitting at a nearby table.
He said that the others were by then at the bar and had started using a lot of bad language to the owner and himself, noting that their attitude was threatening. He noted that one of them, Ronald Coomber, had been first of all threatening him but that he had then pushed past him and struck the owner in the eye causing it to bleed.
He said that the owner then stepped back and that Ronald Coomber swung another blow but said that the owner ducked and it missed. He said that Ronald Coomber then followed the owner who then went behind the bar.
He said that he then forced his way out of the number of people around him and went up to the table where the Second Fruiterer was sitting and said to him, 'The owner's in trouble' and then turned back to where the trouble was noting that there were quite a number of people by then, guessing that all six of Ronald Coomber's party were there by then. He said that he didn't notice whether the Second Fruiterer went up to where the trouble was as it was confusing and was hardly possible to recognise anybody. However, he noted that by that time that Ronald Coomber's brother was half-way round the bar going after the owner.
He said that he then saw the Second Fruiterer say, 'We don't want any trouble at all, the best thing you can do is leave the club'. However, he noted that they did not move immediately but said that moments later they all moved towards the exit, noting that it was impossible to say how many people, noting that he imagined that all of Ronald Coomber's party was in the group, noting that if he said there had been a dozen people in the group he would not know whether he was right or not.
He said that he then followed the whole party towards the door and waited until the last one was out and then closed the door and bolted it, noting that the last one out as far as he could recollect was one of Ronald Coomber's party, noting that he didn't know his name but said that he was a fair-haired lad with an open necked shirt and not wearing a tie. He noted that he didn't know where the Second Fruiterer was at the time.
He said that after he shut and bolted the door that he hardly saw anybody and then walked back to see the owner who was standing by the bar. He said that he looked at his eye and talked to him about it and went to the bathroom with him and then went back to the front door and opened it and went out about a yard from the front door and heard a scuffle as though there was a fight in progress coming from the left as he faced out of the door which would have been towards the entrance of the car park.
He said that he then went back into the club and bolted the door again. He noted that there had been quite a few people outside but that he could not see anybody in particular and could not identify anyone.
He said that there was a lamp at one end of the cat walk that went across the front entrance and a similar one on the other side and said that he could only imagine that they were on as there was enough light to see people coming into the door but not beyond that. He noted that the light above the entrance and the floodlights had not been working on the night.
He said that at some time after he bolted the door for the second time that he had to unbolt it to let some people out after which he bolted the door again for the third time. He said that he didn't know who he had let out but said that they returned to the club as they were not allowed to leave by the police.
He noted that he had also seen the Second Fruiterer outside the door at some point and told him that two young ladies had said that they would not leave the club until he came back and spoke to them and that the Second Fruiterer then came in and that they went to the cloakroom to get some coats and that the Second Fruiterer and the two young women then left and he didn't see them again. He said that when the Second Fruiterer came back in that he didn't notice anything unusual about him, stating that he was perfectly normal. He said that there was nothing to indicate that he had been in a fight or scuffle and he wasn't out of breath.
He noted that he recalled letting another party out through the door and supposed that he must have opened the door for that purpose.
He gave a general timeline of the events from his perspective:
When he was cross-examined he said that he had had complaints from the woman that had been sitting near Ronald Coomber's party and also from his staff, noting that a waitress had complained about some bad language.
The secretary noted that he had heard the language and described it as vile, stating that the attitude of the men was that they wanted a fight.
He noted that when he spoke to Ronald Coomber and had asked him to 'turn it up' Ronald Coomber's party told him to 'fucking-well shut up'.
He said that when the Second Fruiterer had spoken to the group that he had spoken to them very nicely and that there was no question of threats being made or anything like that.
He noted that it was possible that as many as fifteen people had left the club together. He added that when he had looked out that through the noise and shadows he thought that there was quite a party outside, far more than six men.
He said that he could not remember seeing the Smithfield Market Foreman in the club that evening. He said that he recalled seeing the Lampshade Salesman at the bar at about 10.30pm, noting that he had had to ask him to move because he was in the way of the waiter-service, and said that he moved away but that he didn't see any more of him that evening.
He said that he thought that when Ronald Coomber's party had been in the club that there had been about sixty or seventy people there and noted that quite a few people must have left when their group left as it appeared be much less crowded after.
He said that he had known the two fruiterers for about two years, stating that they had been coming into the club about once a week and described their behaviour as very good. He noted that the Second Fruiterer had a very high standing in the club even though he held no official position but that the only reason he had gone to him when the trouble started was because near the party was a group of fifteen chaps and he didn't want a brawl to break out.
The Lampshade Salesman, one of the four men tried, gave a statement which read:
'I started work today at about 9.15am (23rd) picked up some dolls at Woodford and went on to Romford. My job is selling toys, lampshades and dolls and a lot of my trade is done in public houses and clubs. I was working all day and I had quite a few drinks in various public houses in the Wanstead and Barkingside district. I had a drink in the Horns public house, Horn Lane, Barkingside, round about 10pm and left there intending to go to the Ranch House Club to deliver some lamp shades which I had in the car. There were a dozen lampshades, a replacement for a number destroyed by the dog which belongs to the governor of the club. As I approached the club I saw a group of people leaving and they appeared to be a number of people from a factory party. They were swaying about a bit and so I did not go towards the club and carried on in my car to Woodford to the Malvern Club. This was between 10pm and 10.30pm. I am pretty certain about this.
I left the Malvern Club about 11pm I think and went back to the Ranch House Club to deliver the lampshades. There was a police inspector on the door and he stopped me from going into the club until I explained about the lampshades. I do not know anything to help you in this matter and knew nothing of a fight or anyone hurt until the police officer told me. I told him what I had seen at 10pm and he then said I had better come in and wait. This is all I know'.
In corroboration, the owner of the Malvern Club at 52 Grove Road, South Woodford, said that the Lampshade Salesman had been a member there since he opened in September 1959 and that on 23 December 1960 at about 11.30pm he had been in the club talking to three members when there was a ring at the door bell and that when he opened it he found the Lampshade Salesman there. He said that the Lampshade Salesman was alone and that he joined them and that they all carried on talking until about 12.15am when the Lampshade Salesman got up and left.
The three other people that had been at the Malvern Club in the company of the owner at the time all also corroborated the owners story, stating that they remembered seeing the Lampshade Salesman at about that time.
He said that he noticed nothing unusual about him and said that he said nothing about the Ranch House Club and that their conversation was just of a general nature.
However, it was noted that when the police started their investigation it was determined that the Fruiterer, Second Fruiterer, Lampshade Salesman and Smithfield Market Foreman had all been drinking together earlier in the evening and had gone to the Ranch House Club later that evening but had left early without finishing their drinks.
In particular it was determined that the account given by the Second Fruiterer was inconsistent with the evidence given by the two women that said they had spent the evening with him and the other members of the group.
However, the case was further complicated when it was heard that when the police had questioned the two girls that had been with the group of accused men that they had bought them drinks at the pub and then taken them back to the police station where they had been given more drink that was left over from a Christmas party that the police had had at the police station.
A detective said that he had been in the Queens public house in Queens Road, Upton Park at about 9pm on Friday 23 December 1960. He said that whilst he was there that he saw the Second Fruiterer, the Lampshade Salesman and the Smithfield Market Foreman along with two young women, a dress cutter and a factory hand. He added that the Fruiterer later joined the party at about 9.30pm or shortly after and that all six of them left at about 9.50pm, noting that he didn't take note of the time. However, he said that he had occasion to recall the event the following day after receiving information regarding the Ranch House Club incident.
He said that as a result of that information that he went back to the Queens public house on 24 December 1960 where he saw the two girls. He said that he had been in the saloon bar and that he had seen them come in and look around and then immediately leave the public house. However, he said that he then immediately went outside and stopped them outside the saloon bar door in Queens Road and spoke to them and invited them back into the bar where they all had a drink and spoke about the events at the Ranch House Club the previous night.
He said that he had been alone at the time but knew that the girls were wanted in connection with a serious charge and had bought one of them a gin and tonic and the other a gin and lime which he paid for and later re-couped the expense, making an entry in his official diary showing that he had entered the public house and purchased refreshments whilst seeking information. However, he noted that that entry did not disclose that it was gin that he had bought for the girls.
He said that after that that he invited them to accompany him back to Plaistow Police station and told them about the events.
He noted that earlier in the morning at Plaistow police station that there had been a Christmas party among the personnel who worked at the station. He added that on the way to the police station that the two girls were shocked by the information that he had given them, in particular the factory hand, and that by the time they got to the CID office the factory hand was shaking from nerves or shock, he didn't know which and they were both given a drink.
He said that the detective inspector suggested that the girls might like a drink and they were both given a drink, but noted that he didn't say what sort of drink . He said that they could not have given them tea, but could have offered, water, whisky, gin and possibly rum, noting that they had no brandy. He noted that he didn't tell the detective inspector that he had already bought them some gin.
He said that he then saw the girls given gin and tonic but said that he didn't notice whether they consumed it.
He said that he then got in touch with the superintendent, the officer in charge of the case, and that on his instructions he took the girls to Barkingside Police station, noting that it was no more than five minutes after they had been given the gin that they went off to Barkingside police station.
He said that it took about forty minutes to get to Barkingside on Christmas Eve owing to the heavy traffic.
He noted that the gin supplied to the factory hand did appear to steady her up. He noted that the gin supplied was a small measure and that the tonic was from a bottle that they put in themselves and that they didn't drink all of it and did leave part of it.
It was further noted that the girls had also given statements to the defence solicitors and it was suggested that they had been taken to a house against their will and forced to do so. However, at the trial the factory hand said that it was not true that they had been compelled to make a statement, she said, 'It was like a threat, I said, 'Do we have to make a statement?', and the solicitor said, 'If I was you I would because the boys could get nasty''. When the solicitor noted at the trial that that was only advise the factory hand agreed that it was and that she did not have to accept that advice. The dress cutter said that she had gone to the house of the solicitor freely and made her statement quite voluntarily.
The dress cutter, who was 22-years-old and lived in Waghorn Road, Upton Park, said that on the evening of 23 December 1960 that she had met her friend the factory hand at the Queens Hotel in Upton Park and that whilst they were there they met some men, the Second Fruiterer, the Smithfield Market Foreman and the Lampshade Salesman and that later on the Fruiterer came in and that from there they later went to the Greyhound after which they went to the Ranch House Club.
She said that they went by car, her, the factory hand, the Smithfield Market Foreman and the Fruiterer, supposing that the other two went by a lorry that she had seen.
She said that when they got to the Ranch House Club that they sat at a table nearest the door and that the Second Fruiterer ordered some drinks.
The factory hand said that they were there for about five minutes when the manager came over and spoke to the Second Fruiterer and that all the men got up and went over to the bar where they were speaking for two or three minutes after which they all walked out through the front entrance along with the manager.
She said that she only saw them talking by the bar and didn't see any arguments or fights or anything.
She said that the four men were outside the club for about ten minutes leaving her and the dress cutter sitting at the table.
She said that one of the men then came and told them to get their coats as they were going home. She said that the manager then came and spoke to them and that after that that they went outside of the club which was where she said one of them then said that they had had to get their coats. She said that she then got her and her friends coat noting that she was followed by the Second Fruiterer who she said she thought got his coat along with the Fruiterer who also got his coat and that after that they got into the car and drove home.
She noted that whilst outside she saw the Second Fruiterer, the Smithfield Market Foreman and the Fruiterer and that it was the Smithfield Market Foreman, the Fruiterer, her and her friend the factory hand who got in the car.
She said that they just said that they had got to get home and that that was all they would say.
She said that when the factory hand asked them why they were going they just said, 'We've got to get you home'.
She added that she had been friendly with the factory hand at the time but that at the time of the trial that the friendship did not continue, saying that she had a boyfriend and didn't wish to go with her anymore.
She said that when she had been in the Queens Hotel that she had been with different people at the bar but that the Second Fruiterer had sent over a lot of drinks, some of which were for her. She said that the factory hand had been in the pub with her mother at the time and that t some point she went home for five minutes and that when she got back the factory hand was just going round the bar and said to her, 'Come with me'.
She said that she had been intending to go to a party that night somewhere else and said that they changed their minds because it was very late and decided not to go.
She said that from there that they went to the Greyhound after which they stopped back at the Queens Hotel where she thought the Second Fruiterer got his lorry and that they all made their way to the Ranch House Club, arriving at the door at about the same time.
The factory hand, a 21-year-old, who lived in Green Street, Upton Park said that on the evening of 23 December 1960 that she had gone to the Queens Hotel near Upton Park Station with her mother and the dress cutter.
She said that whilst there she saw the Second Fruiterer saying that he passed a drink over the counter to her, noting that he was with the Smithfield Market Foreman, the Fruiterer and the other man tried whose name she didn't know. She said that they met them at about 7.45pm and stayed with them until about 10pm after which they went to the Greyhound in Balham Street, going by car with the Smithfield Market Foreman driving whilst she sat in the front seat and her friend in the back with the Fruiterer.
She said that the Greyhound closed at 10.30pm and that they went to the Ranch House Club, the four of them in the car. She said that she didn't see a lorry but met the other two at the entrance door of the Ranch House as they walked in. She said that the Fruiterer helped her take off her coat and she hung it up in the cloakroom after which she went to the toilet.
She said that she then sat at the table, which was the first table as you went in on the right hand side. She said that she and her friend the dress cutter, the Second Fruiterer, the Smithfield Market Foreman, the Fruiterer and another man that she had not seen before along with the Lampshade Salesman were sat at the table and the waiter brought some drinks over, noting that the Second Fruiterer had ordered the drinks.
She said that shortly after the Second Fruiterer got up and the rest followed him, the Smithfield Market Foreman having put his legs over the barrier rail, and they went to the bar leaving her and her friend at the table by themselves. She noted that no one had spoken to them before they got up. She said that she didn't see what was happening at the bar and that they were gone for about two or three minutes and that they then came back to the table. She said that none of the men said anything to her and that they then all had a drink and after another five minutes the they all got up again and then went outside the front door noting that she didn't see anyone else go out. She noted that the Fruiterer said to her, 'I don't be a minute'.
She said that she and the dress cutter were left at the table on their own again for about ten minutes to a quarter of an hour after which the Fruiterer came in and took two overcoats from the cloakroom and took them outside saying that he wouldn't be a minute.
She said that the manager then came in noting that she didn't know his name but that the Fruiterer didn't come back in.
She said that she called the manager and that he came over and sat with them for a minute or two and that a waiter then came over and spoke to the manager, whispering, and then went away again and they were left at the table with the manager.
She said that she and the dress cutter then went outside through the main door and found the Second Fruiterer, the Smithfield Market Foreman and the Fruiterer there and said that the Smithfield Market Foreman then said to her, 'I'm taking you home'. She said that the dress cutter then went back to get their coats from the cloakroom and that the five of them then got in a car.
She said that she had not expected to go home quite so early, noting that their drinks were left on the table, a bottle of gin, a bottle of whisky and another bottle.
She said that she asked the Second Fruiterer why they were leaving so early and asked whether there had been any trouble and said that he replied, 'No'.
She said that they then drove her straight home with her showing them the way, dropping her off first and then taking the dress cutter home. She said that she got home at about 12 midnight or just after.
The factory hand said that she had been working at Lush and Cooks for about four months but said at the time of the trial that she had finished there as she had got fed up with it and gave a weeks’ notice but was sacked when she took a half-day holiday.
She said that there had been five men with their group and that all five of them had gone up to the bar and all five of them had left the club but noted that she didn't see all five of them afterwards, only three of them. She said that the Lampshade Salesman was not there when she went out although she saw him go out. She said that she had never seen the fifth man before and had not seen him since. She described him as a dark man, tall, average size and well-built.
She said that drinks had been taken out of the bottle and that they had been drinking heavily that night but she was not drunk.
She said that she didn't see any commotion in the club at all and didn't see another gang of men come into the club and cause a lot of trouble. She said that she didn't know the governor of the club and didn't see anybody struck in the face by another man.
She added that she didn't see any others leave the club apart from the five men that she had already spoken of as having been sat at her table, noting that to go out they would have had to have passed her.
She added that whilst they were at their table that there was no unusual talk or unusual behaviour from either of the men in the group, saying that they behaved perfectly. She said that when she saw the Fruiterer and the Second Fruiterer just before they left that they didn't look upset in any way or worried but were quite normal with nothing out of place as though they had been in a scuffle or fight.
She said that the following day as they passed the Queens Hotel that they were approached by a plain clothed police officer with whom they went into the pub with and who bought them each a gin after which they went to Plaistow police station and then on to the police station in Barkingside. She said that she was asked a lot of questions and made statements and was shown a lot of photographs, possibly twelve or more, adding that she thought it could have been as many as twenty. She said that she was eventually taken home in a police car.
The factory hand said that she remembered Tuesday 27 December 1960, saying that she was at the dress cutters house when a person called with a car, a man, and asked her if she would go to see a solicitor acting for the Second Fruiterer. She said that they refused to go at first but that the dress cutters parents became involved and they both agreed to go. She said that she first thought that the dress cutters father was going to go as well and he came out to the car with them but said that he wasn't going and went back in.
She said that whilst they were in the car that there was no question of any threats or anything being made, adding that she was going quite voluntarily.
However, she said that when they got to Green Street that the dress cutter asked the driver if he would stop so that she could use the telephone, but that he did not. She said that after they shouted at him after he passed three telephones he did stop and they both got out and went back in the direction from which they had come and went down a side turning which she thought was Kitchener Road where they used a telephone. She said that they then called the dress cutters boyfriend. She said that she could have called the police but didn't have the number for the Barkingside Police Station and didn't think to make an emergency call.
She said that when they went to the telephone box that the car was on the main road out of site but that by the time they were in the telephone box that the car had come into the side turning and waited there for them to finish their call. She said that the driver didn't get out of the car and that she supposed that they could have run away if they had wanted to or they could have made an emergency call.
However, she said that after ten minutes in the telephone box that they came out and walked voluntarily back to the car and opened the door and got in.
She said that they then requested the driver to take them to the dress cutter's boyfriends address. She said that she didn't know the address but knew the road and said that it was near a thatched house. She said that the driver was not too keen on that but that he eventually took them there and that they then both got out of the car, noting that the driver didn't get out. She said that they knocked twice at the door and looked through the letter box and that they then both voluntarily got back into the car.
She noted that they could have run away if they had wanted to. She said that it had been suggested that the dress cutter's boyfriend might have been at the Rookwood public house. She said that it was not suggested to the driver that he might have known where that was and that he then took another turn towards Chingford saying that he didn't have all day to drive them around.
She said that before they got to the house in Chingford they were asked whether they wanted a drink but said that they said that they did not.
She said that she didn't know the man that they were going to see and that when they got there that he had not been there. She said that they went into the house and were told that the man they were to see was at Barkingside Police Station and that they called Barkingside Police Station and then waited for a call back.
She said that later on the man's son arrived, who was also a solicitor. She said that they had been in the room on the left hand side immediately by the front door and that there had been a telephone in the room.
She said that the solicitors son didn't seem to know much about the matter and said that he explained to them that all he wanted was a truthful statement from her. She said that she asked him whether if she made a statement that she would have to go to court and that he then told her that she probably would and explained to her that she could be subpoenaed.
At the trial she said that she couldn't really explain his attitude, noting that he wasn't helpful. She noted that he was nice, but that he didn't seem helpful to her. She said that whilst they had been waiting for the solicitors son to arrive that they had had some coffee and noted that whilst waiting that she had not felt like she was in a difficult position whilst sitting in the room with the man that had driven them there.
She said that when the solicitors son arrived that he took the driver out of the room for about five minutes before coming in and noted that whilst they were out of the room that she could have used the telephone if she had wanted to or have gotten out through the front door, but made no effort to do so.
She said that when the solicitors friend came back that he returned on his own and that she then told him that she had made a statement to the police and that it appeared that she would be a witness. She said that she then told him that she had picked out a man from the photographs and that she was a little worried, but said that he told her that she had no need for any worry and then said that there would be no trouble if she made a statement provided it was true.
She said that she didn't agree to make a statement at first but eventually agreed, noting that she wasn't really compelled to do so and that she then told him what she knew and that he repeated it and wrote it down. She said that she couldn't remember whether he read it over to her afterwards but said that he asked her to sign it which she did. She said that he then told her that he was trying to help them and that it was entirely up to her whether she signed it or not. She noted that her friend the dress cutter also gave a statement whilst she was there.
She noted that her friend said that she had seen the Second Fruiterer drive away in the lorry but said that she hadn't seen the lorry.
She said that the interview was quite friendly and that whilst they were talking she asked him whether she should go to the police and said that he told her that the police need not know.
She said that after the interview that the solicitors son shook hands with them and said, 'Thank you for your statement'. She reiterated that everything that had happened was quite voluntary throughout.
She said that the police later went to her house and that she went with them, two policemen and a policewoman, to her friend’s house, the dress cutters, and that they then went to Barkingside Police station where she saw the police inspector who questioned her about the statement that she had made to the solicitors son, noting that he didn't seem pleased about it. She said that her friend was separated from her after a short while and that her original statement was then rewritten, noting that she didn't know the reason for that, but said that there were some words put in it that were different from the first statement, noting that she supposed that they were important.
She said that she made an allegation in the new statement that she had been compelled to make the statement with the solicitors son against her will, but said that that was untrue, explaining that she had not been compelled to like a threat, saying that when she asked, 'Do I have to make a statement?' the solicitors son had said, 'If I was you, I would, because the boys could get nasty'. She noted that he was advising her and said so, but that he had still said that.
She agreed at the trial that she didn't have to accept his advice, but noted that she did use the word, 'compelled'.
She noted that she also told the police about them being refused permission to use the telephone on the way to Chingford but agreed that she had finally got to one but didn't tell the police that she could have made an emergency call if she had wanted to.
She noted that she had read the newspapers about what had been said in the court the previous week and said that she had not been pleased and that she had subsequently received a letter from the solicitors son which she said she gave to the police, noting that she didn't reply to it as she didn't want to. She said that she had ignored it on her own accord and did not see why the solicitors son should have been sending her letters. She said that the solicitors son had invited her and her father to come and see her which she said she didn't want to do and that she made a complaint about the letter to the police.
At the trial the factory hand also said that the solicitors son had told her that if she didn't make a statement that he would get a subpoena taken out an would be forced to make a statement. She added that when the solicitors son had told her that if she didn't make a statement that the boys would get nasty she said that she thought that he meant that they would come round to her house or something and didn't challenge the statement.
A police detective said that he went to the Ranch House Club on 24 December 1960 at about 1.45am where he saw the owner who he said had a slight discolouration of his right eye which was not bleeding when he saw it and was indicative of a blow being struck but was not in his opinion a serious injury.
He said that when he arrived that there were about 60 members and guests at the club including the Lampshade Salesman who he said he spoke to. He said that when he first saw the Lampshade Salesman that he asked him what he was doing there and said that he told him that he had called to deliver some electric light bulbs to replace some that had been damaged some days earlier by the owners dog. He said that when he asked the Lampshade Salesman why he was calling after midnight that the Lampshade Salesman told him that that he had just been passing.
He said that when he asked the Lampshade Salesman whether he had been to the club earlier the that night between 11pm and midnight that he said, 'No'. He said that he then asked the Lampshade Salesman whether he had seen, heard or knew anything about a fight outside the club at about 11.30pm that the Lampshade Salesman said, 'I heard just that someone hit the owner'. The police detective said that he then asked the Lampshade Salesman if he would make a statement and said that he agreed to do so.
At the trial he admitted that the Lampshade Salesman could have told him that he had come to deliver shades and not bulbs.
The police detective said that he then examined the club both inside and out and found a pool of blood outside that had previously been covered with a sack that he had witnessed being removed to reveal the blood. He said that he also examined a stone that was near what he described as an old coach thing thinking that there was blood near it but said that he later found that the mark he saw was not blood. It was also heard that the pool of blood along with the coins had been found by another detective that had arrived earlier who had then placed a carton over it along with the sack on top of which he had put a rock.
He noted that the lighting outside at 1.45am was very poor indeed and that two side lights were out along with a light positioned over the door at the main entrance and that the only lighting outside was the street lighting which he noted was not very good where the blood was, noting that he had had to use a large electric light to make his examination.
He later saw Ronald Coomber's body at 5am on 24 December 1960 and attended the post mortem at 11.15am the same day.
He said that at 9.30pm the same day that he saw the Second Fruiterer in the presence of the solicitor who later arranged for the statements to be taken by the two girls, the factory hand and the dress cutter. He said that in the presence of the Second Fruiterer the solicitor said, 'This man has come to this station because he had heard you wish to see him about an affair at the Ranch House Club last night, and acting on my advice he had come voluntarily with the other man, the Fruiterer. They do not deny they were in the club but deny they were in any fight'.
The police detective then said, 'The allegations are that between 11pm and 12 midnight last that you went to the Ranch House Club with some other men, the Fruiterer, the Lampshade Salesman and the Smithfield Market Foreman, with some young ladies, and sat near the entrance, at what is called the window table. The four of you men went to the main bar to get some drinks and there had a conversation with one of the staff who told you of a disturbance in which the owner was struck in the eye. Then you all left the club main entrance without going back to your table, and it is further alleged, you sent a waiter to tell the young ladies to come out, but when they argued, the Fruiterer came back into the club and got the men's coats off a table, it is alleged that you all went out of the club and had a fight in which a man received a blow and fell to the ground and he had such injuries he died'.
He said that the solicitor replied that the Second Fruiterer agreed with the facts that he had related as to what had happened in the club and that he had been there with his friends, but said that he had not been concerned with any fight.
The police detective said that the Second Fruiterer and his solicitor had both been there together when he had made his allegation and that whilst they were talking all the Second Fruiterer did was nod his head.
He said that when he proposed to put the Second Fruiterer up for identification the following morning that both the Second Fruiterer and the solicitor readily agreed.
He said that he then saw the Fruiterer in the presence of the same solicitor and explained to him that he wanted to see him about the affair at the Ranch House Club the previous night and that the Fruiterer also agreed that he had been in the club but that he had not been concerned with any fight. He said that he then proposed that he be put up for identification which he also readily agreed to, it being noted that the Fruiterer in fact desired it. The police detective noted that the Fruiterer said nothing during the interview and only nodded.
The police detective said that the identification parade was held at about 10.30am on Christmas Day after which in the presence of their solicitor he told them that they would ben charged with Ronald Coomber's murder.
He said that when he charged them the Second Fruiterer said, 'I have nothing more to say', whilst the Fruiterer said, 'I don't wish to say anything other than what I first said when I came to the police station'. The police detective noted that they were in fact the first sentences that either of them had uttered to him during the enquiry.
The police detective said that he then interviewed the Lampshade Salesman without the solicitor. The police detective said, 'You remember me seeing you before in the early hours of yesterday morning at the Ranch Club, and you told me then that you had not been to the Club on the 23rd December before you went there after midnight to deliver electric bulbs?', to which he said the Lampshade Salesman replied, 'Yes, what I said then was true'. The detective policeman then said, 'I now have reason to believe that what you said to me before was wrong and that on the evening of the 23rd December you were drinking in a public house at Plaistow or near there with the Smithfield Market Foreman, the Fruiterer, the Second Fruiterer and two young women, then you all went with the girls to the Ranch House Club, you following the others in your car, and you got there round about 11.30pm. You all sat at a table near the main entrance, then you and the other men went to the main bar to get drinks, but after either all of you or some of you had spoken to one of the staff, you four men went out of the club by the main entrance and never returned to the two girls at your table'.
The police detective said that the Lampshade Salesman then said, 'What I said last night I think was right'.
The police detective then said, 'Do you agree or not agree you were with the Second Fruiterer, the Smithfield Market Foreman the Fruiterer and the two young ladies?', to which the Lampshade Salesman said, 'I suppose I was, but that was earlier on in the evening or about mid-day'.
The police detective said that at that moment he got a message from the solicitor and broke off the interview with the Lampshade Salesman to talk to him after which he went back to the Lampshade Salesman and told him that the solicitor was present and that they then saw each other and that after that he told the Lampshade Salesman that he was going to charge him with murder to which the Lampshade Salesman said, 'I know nothing about the gentleman you are talking about and I know nothing about the murder'.
The three men were later charged at 12.10pm with murder.
The Smithfield Market Foreman was then seen on 27 December 1960 at about 3pm with the same solicitor. He said that he then proposed that he put him up for identification in relation to him having been concerned in a fight, stating that the allegation was that he, the Fruiterer, the Second Fruiterer, the Lampshade Salesman and two girls went to the Ranch House Club, Barkingside, between 11pm and 12 midnight on 23 December, in the first place for a drink, and they sat at a table near the main door. The police detective said, 'When you four men went to the main bar to get drinks, and all or some of you had a conversation, either with the owner or another member of staff, the secretary, and then without returning to your table, you all went outside where you had a fight with four men in which Ronald Thomas Coomber received such injuries he died, and for that you will be put up for identification'. However, he said that following that recital that he got no response from the Smithfield Market Foreman or his solicitor after which he said that the solicitor expressed agreement to the Smithfield Market Foreman being put up for identification.
He said that later, after the identification parade that he told the Smithfield Market Foreman that he was to be charged with murder and cautioned him, noting that he again didn't reply, just saying, 'I leave that to my solicitor' which the police detective noted was the first thing that he had said since arriving at the police station. He said that after that that he was finger printed and his hands were examined. The police detective said that he found round about the knuckles of the right hand what appeared to be swellings but that when he examined them he was satisfied were muscular or flesh developments although he noted that on one of his fingers the Smithfield Market Foreman had a ring like a signet ring, although he said he couldn't remember what finger it was on but described it as yellow. However, he said that he didn't take possession of it but later identified a ring that was very similar to it. He added that he didn't notice whether any of the other three men had had rings.
He said that clothing was taken from the homes of the four men and their homes searched.
He noted that it was not until sometime later that anybody connected with the club condescended to give him any worthwhile information at all.
The case was heard at the Old Bailey in January through March 1961. However, it was dropped on Wednesday 8 March 1961.
It was reported that after the evidence was heard, the judge asked the counsel for prosecution two questions:
The prosecuting counsel took fifteen minutes to think it over and replied 'No' to both questions and the charges were withdrawn and verdicts of not guilty returned.
When the judge addressed the jury, he said, 'It would be impossible to point your finger at any of the four accused men and say he did anything to Ronald Coomber'.
When the men were acquitted they were awarded their defence costs which was estimated to have been about £2,000 in total.
It was reported that after the men left the court they went for a drink. The Lampshade Salesman was quoted as having said, 'I am sick with happiness. The relief at being free again is almost unbearable'.
The Fruiterer said, 'It has been an eleven-week nightmare. If any one of the witnesses had made a mistake, or had been dishonest, we might have got life imprisonment'.
The Second Fruiterer was reported as having said, with a pint in his hand, 'This is what I call British justice'.
The fact that the police had given the two girls gin and tonic at the police station was picked up by the press as was the fact that they had been taken away by the solicitor for the four accused men and had their statements taken, it being suggested that they had been taken away to do so against their will although the allegation was later corrected with the true intent being to note that the girls had not been allowed to call the police on their way to the house.
The Ranch House Club was at 272 to 280 Ashurst Drive at the top near the junction with Horns Road. The site has since been redeveloped and now has flats there with the road having been redirected around the south of where the club would have been. A 1946 Ordnance Survey map published in 1946 shows the site as having had a club but the Ranch House Club as it was in 1960 was not thought to have been built until 1958 when a man returning from the services in Canada, the owner who was punched, decided to build it, importing tons of Canadian timber for the purpose. However, it is possible that the owner had simply refurbished the existing clubhouse with the Canadian lumber and had not built a new building.
Following the death of Ronald Coomber the owner later closed the Ranch House Club and opened another restaurant in Braintree Essex but in November 1972 his house was targeted for a robbery to take the earnings following a celebrity night during which his wife was murdered. Two men were convicted for her murder. The case is further controversial because an innocent man was initially tried for his murder twice and it was not until later that the two men were found to have been responsible were identified and tried after one of them admitted to the murder to a friend and the gun was later found in his possession.
see National Archives - CRIM 1/3618, MEPO 2/10073
see A Calendar Of Murder, Criminal Homicide In England Since 1957, Terence Morris and Louis Blom-Cooper
see "Ranch House Club Murder Case Opens." Times [London, England] 14 Jan. 1961: 4. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 13 Apr. 2014.
see "Four Men For Trial On Murder Charge." Times [London, England] 2 Feb. 1961: 7. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 13 Apr. 2014.
see "Four Cleared Of Ilford Murder." Times [London, England] 9 Mar. 1961: 3. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 13 Apr. 2014.
see Daily Herald - Thursday 09 March 1961
see Daily Herald - Saturday 14 January 1961
see Daily Mirror - Thursday 09 March 1961 (pictures of four accused)
see Daily Mirror - Tuesday 17 January 1961 (picture of owner)
see You Tube